[News] Treaty defenders block road leading to Mount Rushmore

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jul 4 12:36:15 EDT 2020

defenders block road leading to Mount Rushmore
July 3, 2020
Mary Annette Pember

*Indian Country Today <https://indiancountrytoday.com/>*

More than 100 treaty defenders and other protesters gathered on a highway
leading to Mount Rushmore on Friday ahead of President Donald Trump’s
speech at the monument.

The group blocked the road, holding banners and chanting slogans such as
“We can’t breathe” and proclaiming treaty rights. They carried signs with
messages such as, “End 500 years of Genocide,” and “It’s a good day to do
the right thing."

At one point, Native women in ribbon skirts created a line across the
highway, behind them members of NDN Collective, a nonprofit Native advocacy
organization, parked white vans across the road and deflated the
tires. Protesters later removed the wheels and climbed on top of the vans,
shouting "Land back!"

*(Related: Lakotas to Donald Trump: ‘You are not welcome here’

The gathering took place near a checkpoint at Highways 16/244 where ticket
holders for Trump’s South Dakota event were being screened. Some treaty
defenders got into heated exchanges with people driving to Mount Rushmore.

[image: Native groups and other protesters block a highway leading to Mount
Rushmore ahead of President Donald Trump's speech at the monument Friday,
July 3, 2020. (Screenshot: NDN Collective via Facebook)]
Protesters block a highway leading to Mount Rushmore ahead of President
Donald Trump's speech at the monument Friday. (Screenshot: NDN Collective
via Facebook)

Around 5 p.m. local time, law enforcement started telling defenders to
vacate the area or face arrest, saying the blocking of traffic was an
unlawful assembly. They directed them to head to a designated “free speech

Law enforcement officers dressed in riot gear held shields and formed a
line across the road, pushing up against a group of protesters.

"We don’t need them to give us permission to do this on our land; we intend
to stay here indefinitely throughout the night," said Nick Tilsen, Oglala
Lakota, of NDN Collective. "Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy.
When you carve out four white men who conducted genocide against Native
people in this sacred place, it is fundamentally wrong."

Some people began to disperse but later returned, as the vans continued
blocking the road. Law enforcement then brought in tow trucks to haul them

Trump supporters standing behind and near the police line shouted at treaty
defenders. A man claiming to be a veteran repeatedly offered his help to

After the vans were towed, a small group of treaty defenders continued
blocking the highway, holding a large “#LandBack” banner.

At 7 p.m., police arrested them, using zipties to secure their hands behind
their backs and leading them off the road. Trump supporters shouted
accusations that the defenders were funded by George Soros, founder and
chairman of Open Society Foundations and frequent target of right-wing
conspiracy theorists.

About 15 people were arrested, The Associated Press
<https://apnews.com/e4725ee4f6c777273a4b5dc83ab57823> reported. Tilsen was
among them.

Several groups of Natives had planned to travel to the monument to voice
their opposition to Trump’s visit, his policies that are seen as challenges
to tribal sovereignty and the very presence of Mount Rushmore, which
features faces of American presidents carved into a mountain held sacred by
many tribes in the region.

Among those gathered at the highway Friday was Krystal Two Bulls, an Army
veteran and founder of Voices of the Sacred, an organization aimed at
empowering Native youth.

“We need to be bringing out the roots of what we’re talking about,” she
said in a livestreamed video of the protest. “This country was founded on
white supremecy,” including the genocide of Natives and slave labor of
Black people.

“This is a major convergence that we’re seeing today,” said Two
Bulls, Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne. “All these people standing
together across the country.”

The Black Hills are part of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, and the
country’s highest court ordered compensation in the millions of dollars to
the Lakota for their illegal seizure, an offer the Lakota have refused for
decades. They instead want the Black Hills returned to tribal authority.

Mount Rushmore is considered a national memorial by the National Park
Service and is the state’s prized tourist destination, attracting nearly 3
million visitors each year.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism created a lottery system allowing
7,500 people to attend Friday night's program, in which fireworks were
scheduled to be set off at the monument for the first time since 2009.

The 6 p.m. deadline for entry to the event passed with many cars still
waiting to enter the memorial, though they eventually got through.

Earlier in the evening, Tilsen tried to negotiate with the National Park
Service on the removal of treaty defenders and the vans parked in the
middle of the road.

"We ain't going nowhere," he said. "This is our land. This has been our
land for thousands of years."

*Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is a
national correspondent for Indian Country Today.*


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